Ketanji Brown Jackson Vote Set to Go Down to the Wire

Ketanji Brown Jackson may be confirmed as a Supreme Court justice by one of the narrowest margins in history.

Jackson would become the first Black woman to serve on the nation's highest court, replacing retiring liberal Justice Stephen Breyer.

But President Joe Biden's nominee faces another hurdle on the path to her confirmation on Monday, when the Senate Judiciary Committee—evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans—votes on whether to move her nomination to the Senate floor.

Republicans on the committee grilled Jackson on her record as a public defender and judge during contentious hearings last month.

But her nomination would still proceed to the full Senate even if the committee deadlocks at 11-11 in Monday morning's vote.

Democrats would be expected to hold a vote on the Senate floor that would let Jackson's nomination proceed, with a final Senate confirmation vote expected later this week.

A simple majority is needed for confirmation, so Jackson would secure the lifetime appointment as long as the Democrats remain united in the 50-50 Senate with Vice President Kamala Harris able to cast a tie-breaking vote.

But the support of at least one Republican likely saves Democrats from having to use Harris' vote. Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, announced her support for Jackson's confirmation last week.

Along with Collins, Sens. Lindsey Graham and Lisa Murkowski were the only Republicans to support Jackson's nomination to the U.S. Court of appeals for the D.C. Circuit last year. Graham has said he will oppose Jackson's confirmation, while Murkowski hasn't yet revealed her vote.

All 50 Democrats are expected to support Jackson, but Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, a moderate, has yet to say how she will vote. Sen. Joe Manchin has said he will support Jackson's nomination.

If Jackson is ultimately confirmed by a 51-49 vote, it would be the closest since former president Donald Trump's second Supreme Court appointee Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed by a 50-48 vote in 2018. That followed a bitter confirmation process that saw Kavanaugh fiercely deny sexual misconduct allegations.

Supreme Court nominees in the past have been confirmed by large Senate majorities, but votes in recent years have become much closer, divided along party lines.

Trump's other appointees were also confirmed by narrow margins, with Neil Gorsuch confirmed in 2017 on a 54-45 vote following a partisan fight, after Senate Republicans refused to consider former President Barack Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland.

Gorsuch took the seat vacated by the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who had been confirmed by a 98-0 vote in 1986.

Trump's third and final appointee, Amy Coney Barrett, was confirmed 52-48 in 2020 after being nominated just weeks before the year's presidential election following the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who had been confirmed 96-3 in 1993.

Clarence Thomas, the sole Black justice currently on the court, was confirmed by a 52-48 vote in 1991 after facing allegations of sexual harassment during his confirmation hearings. In 1994, Breyer was confirmed 87-9.

U.S. Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson
U.S. Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson meets with U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) on Capitol Hill on March 29, 2022, in Washington, DC. Win McNamee/Getty Images